The foundation of Art in Embassies (AIE), a U.S. Department of State program, began with an International Council established by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1953 to exhibit American works of art in U.S. embassies. Building on these efforts and recognizing the importance of art in international cultural outreach, an AIE office was created by the John F. Kennedy administration in 1963. Since then, AIE has grown and continues its mission to promote cultural diplomacy through art by way of artist exchanges and programs exhibiting a diverse group of American artists as well as international artists and artists from the host countries.
“The United States and Mexico: A Powerful Past, A Shared Future” exhibition at the ambassador’s residence in Mexico City is a visual narrative that explores the longstanding relationship between the United States and Mexico — a shared history of struggle and hope. Mission Mexico and volunteers worked closely with Art in Embassies, Dr. Gilberto Cárdenas, Colección y Archivo de Fundación Televisa, Colección FEMSA, Mexic-Arte Museum, Talley Dunn Gallery, Galerie Myrtis, and Dr. Isaac Masri to curate an exhibition that represents the fight for civil and human rights, Indigenous representation, and visions for the future.
Art in Embassies (AIE) creates vital cross-cultural dialogue and fosters mutual understanding through the visual arts and dynamic artist exchanges. The Museum of Modern Art first initiated exhibitions of contemporary art for U.S. embassy residencies in 1953, and President John F. Kennedy established the program as an official office at the U.S. Department of State in 1963. The office has since grown and engages more than 20,000 international participants — including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors. AIE continues its mission to advance cultural diplomacy by collaborating with a diverse group of U.S. and international artists to implement artist exchanges and exhibitions around the world.
As an exhibition, these artworks demonstrate a mutual quest for human dignity across two inextricably bound nations. There are works dedicated to the diverse Indigenous groups living in the United States and Mexico, which represent their contributions to the nation’s cultural richness. Complex stone carvings, ceramics, and sculptures to honor gods and leaders represent Mexico’s pre-colonial era. As we transition to the colonial era, the art depicts a time marked by conflict, subordination, and new beginnings. Additionally, there are modern works by mestizo and Mexican American artists who were inspired by Indigenous and Western art to create hybrid expressions that mirror Mexico and the U.S.’s diverse ethnic makeup.
Aside from selecting art from differing eras, it was important to include work that could speak to the shared history between our two nations. That history contains both tragedy and hope —- with conquest, war, and families separated across borders. For example, the mestizos and Indigenous people in both countries who have always struggled for rights, respect, and recognition, along with African Americans and other underrepresented peoples. Or the hundreds of thousands of soldiers with Mexican ancestry who enlisted in the United States military during World War II. We want to pay homage to the political artists on both sides of the border, from the U.S. artists who worked side by side with leaders of the Chicano Movement to promote social justice, to the Taller de Gráfica Popular artists who used their prints to widely circulate revolutionary causes.
Our nations’ futures are inextricably linked and driven by change, the hopes of many generations, and the dreams of our young people. We hope that this exhibition is enjoyed by all who see it. We hope that it inspires emerging and established artists as they continue to honor their communities, families, and traditions with vibrant and exuberant expressions of creativity. May you be challenged to reconsider and rethink conventional artistic boundaries while you imagine new, sometimes playful, but always culturally conscious and wholly original works.
Ambassador Ken Salazar
Mexico City, Mexico